Monday, 21 October 2019

Back to Amsterdam

I lounge in my trollies after dragging my saggy behind out of bed. And watching another glorious crimson sunrise.

Do they do breakfast here? Doesn’t matter. I’ve 2 kilos of doggy bag Vietnamese. I realise how ridiculous the portion size is when I lifted the container. Enough food for a dozen starving teenagers.

I dollop out the best bits onto a plate and give it a spin in the microwave. Still dead yummy.

Handyman very chatty at checkout. Ponytail very like Matt’s, but coloured red.

Matt suggests a spot of lunch on the way to the airport. “What sort of food would you like?”

“Typical American, maybe. Not had any of that yet.”

“That probably means fast food. Burgers, tacos, pizzas. Not necessarily great food.”

“I’m not massively hungry. I finished off that Vietnamese earlier. It’s beer I’m after, really.”

Matt suggests Arbor Brewing’s location in Plymouth, which is on the way. It’s in a modern building on what looks like the town’s main square.

We park behind the brewery. When we walk around the front we realise it isn’t open.

“Thank you, Mr. Google. According to him it opens at noon. Let’s go next door instead.” Which is an Italian restaurant. “it’s owned by the same people and sells Arbor beers.

We sit at the bar, where have a good view of the 20-odd draught beer taps. I opt for an Arbor Buzzsaw IPA. It’s rather pleasant in a straight ahead old-school sort of way.

Matt gets a pizza. I just get a small plate of prosciutto and cheese. It’s light and rather good.

I go for a Bell’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout from 2016. Sticking with my Michigan-brewed theme.

“Expedition Stout isn’t usually barrel aged.” Matt tells me.

“At least it doesn’t taste like it’s had cheap bourbon thrown into. I’m sure that’s what some breweries do.”

“It is.”

We visit the bog before leaving. It’s shared by the brewpub. Giving me a chance to look at the brewing kit. It’s very much like brewing kit the world over: shiny.

On the way to Detroit airport we chat about the Vikings and their influence, the failure of Viking Greenland, the spread of pastoralism, comparative linguistics and lots of other fun stuff. Matt is extremely knowledgeable about history, but knows a stack of other stuff.

After I’ve said goodbye to Matt, I spot there’s a handy kerbside check in.

“Can I check in here?”

“Where are you going, sir?” A friendly woman asks in reply.


“Yeah, sure you can.”

That was dead easy. Two minutes, not even in the terminal, and I’m done with a big chunk of the annoying airport shit. Just security, the most irritatingist bit, to go.

I park my arse at the bar of Gordon Biersch, close to my gate. And get myself an Oktoberfest. It’s OK. Malty and undemanding. A bit overcarbonated for my taste.

That’s a bit odd. They’re playing Off the Wall. I thought Michael Jackson was relegated to Gary Glitter status?

I’ve moved onto Jim Beam. They’re very liberal here – you can take drinks out to you gate. They don’t usually allow that in the USA.

A couple plonk down to my left. From their phone calls to the relatives babysitting their kids, I learn that they’ve missed a connecting flight and will be stuck in Detroit airport for six hours. Don’t blame them for idling them away at the bar.

The bloke is quite into beer, which gives us something to talk about. Lots to talk about. I bore at international level when it comes to beer.

The flight is pretty uneventful. Especially as I sleep through most of it.

Alexei is pottering around when I get home.

“I heard two bangs last night and thought it was some kids letting off fireworks. Mum told me it was the cash machine around the corner being blown up.”

Arbor Brewing Plymouth Taproom
777 W Ann Arbor Trail,
MI 48170.
Tel: +1 734-233-6201

Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina
777 W Ann Arbor Trail,
MI 48170.
Tel: +1 734-233-6200

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Pioneer Day

Another fairly low-key start to the day. Matt picks me up at 11:30. Leaving me some time to smooch around my room. Struggling with the coffee machine. Fun things like that.

We had contemplated a dash to Ohio, but sensibly settled on plans which didn’t involve a 3-hour trip each way.

We’re headed to a thing called Pioneer Day at Waterloo Farm Museum. It’s a beautiful sunny. If a little nippy in the wind. Luckily, I now have my coat again.

Matt parks his van and we wander over to the exhibits. People – dressed in historic clothing – are demonstrating all sorts of crafts and trade. Things like butter making, weaving, knitting socks, soap making.

Very interesting. But I'm guessing the kids would prefer the Civil War re-enactors with their muskets.

One of the trades being demonstrated in brewing. The brewer, Mike, is a friend of Matt from the Ann Arbor home brew club. The beer he’s making is a Scandinavian farmhouse ale. Juniper twigs serve as a false bottom in the mash tun, which is a barrel cut in half. The water for the mash is heating in a copper cauldron, suspended over an open wood fire.

“How do you know when the water is hot enough to mash without a thermometer?” I ask.

“You put your hand into it. If you can hold it in there, it’s not hot enough. If you can’t get your hand in, it’s too hot. When you can hold your hand in for a second, then it’s the right temperature.”

“What’s this fruit?” I ask Matt, pointing at all the green balls which, on the drive down, I’d mistaken for apples.

“Walnuts. If you open them up there’s a nut inside.”

It’s quite windy and every now and again one falls from the tree. They’re almost the size and weight of a cricket ball. Definitely don’t want one of those dropping on my head. I start edging away from the tree. I really don’t feel like concussion today.

We stumble into a conversation about the earliest forms of alcohol and how long humans have been making alcohol or making beer. A fucking long time, is the simple answer. Going back so far beyond recorded history. That no-one will ever be able to pin a definitive date on it, but it’s at least 7,000 years ago.

We have a chat with a small group of confederate reenactors. Their uniforms are appropriately crude and inconsistent. I get to hold one of their muskets, which weighs an absolute ton.

The brewing isn’t over when we leave. Though the walnuts seem to be falling with increased frequency. One drops directly into the cauldron, splashing hot water everywhere.

“Which brewery would you like to go to?” Matt asks.

“I’m easy.”

“This road either goes to Dexter or Chelsea. If it’s Dexter, then we can go to Jolly Pumpkin. If not, then there’s the Chelsea Alehouse brewery.”

It turns out the road leads to Chelsea. Which seems to be a well-preserved little town.

It’s a modern, quite modestly-sized, brewpub. We find ourselves seats and take a look at the beer menu. There are only two beers of their own.

“They used to be a production down by the river. Then they moved up here and got a brewpub licence. That means they can sell other breweries’ beers and get a liquor licence.”

I order a house Belgian Strong Golden. I pass on the Raspberry Lime Gose. The Strong Golden is, err, strong and pretty tasty.

“What about some food?”

I think I have room for some. I get two pork belly tacos.

After some searching, I find another reasonably normal beer on the menu: Original Gravity Porter.

One of Matt’s regulars from his own taproom wanders over.

“What do you think of Brexit?” he asks. Thankfully he’s the first on this trip. So I give him an honest reply:

“I try my best not to think about it. That’s why I drink so much beer. To block it out. If things don’t improve, I may have to step up to heroin.”

We move on after two beers. To the Session Room, one of the few outlets for Matt’s beers outside Brighton. It’s a big single room, in what looks like an old light industrial building.

We sit next at the bar, next to the beer buyer. Matt knows him well, obviously. As this is one of the selected outlets that stock his beer. We somehow get onto the topic of fruit. The various types of it. A local brewer has 20 Schaerbeekse Kriek trees. I’m dead envious. I had just one, and that died.

Alcopop-like beers come up, too. Though I’m not going to bore you with that discussion. And a weird cult in his home town. Some weird shit about Atlantis, Mount Rainier and dome houses. Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, it’s called.

“At least they’re harmless.”

“For now.” Matt observes.

I play it safe with my beer choice and get a Bell’s Two Hearted. Can’t go wrong with that. And it’s from Michigan. I’m trying to drink local beers when I can. It doesn’t disappoint. And has no weird shit in it. There are plenty of beers on the list that do.

For the second beer, I go for a Shorts A Tribe called Zest.

“I’m surprised you ordered that.” Matt remarks. “What t with all the different kinds of zest in it.”

I didn’t read the description properly. Though the “Zest” in the name was a clue. It’s better than I Feared. And no more citrussy than many non-zested beers. It definitely doesn’t drink it’s 9.9% ABV.

“Anything in particular you’d like to eat?” Matt asks. We’ve already had Japanese.

“What about Vietnamese?”

“I’ve never had that.”

“Let’s go with that, then.”

Matt looks for nearby Vietnamese places. But it’s closing in on 8 PM and most are about to close. There is one that’s open until 9. On the road to Ypsilanti. I remember seeing it yesterday.

There are still a few tables occupied, but it’s obvious that they’re running down towards closing. It being his first time, Matt sensibly plumps for Pho. Which is what all the other customers seem to be eating. Just to be different, I choose stir-fried seafood on a bed of crispy noodles.

In the evening we ate Vietnamese food that was really good. Though Matt says the bogs are pretty grim. Luckily I didn’t need a wazz while there.

Back at the hotel, I ask what time checkout is.

"I love your accent." The woman says.

Not heard that for a while. Not sure how to react. “Thank you.” “I’ve lived here 50 years, but can’t lose it.” “That’s not what my wife says.” “Would you like to have sex with me?”

I just smile. Can almost never go wrong with a smile.

Once again, whisky is my night-time chum.

Waterloo Farm Museum
9998 Waterloo Munith Rd.,
Grass Lake,
MI 49240.
Tel: 517-596-2254

Chelsea Alehouse Brewery
115 S Main St,
MI 48118.
Tel: +1 734-475-2337

The Session Room
3685 Jackson Rd,
Ann Arbor,
MI 48103.
Tel: +1 734-585-7300

Pho House
2224 Washtenaw Ave,
MI 48197.
Tel: +1 734-961-8253

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Let's Brew - 1938 William Younger IPA Pale

A bonus extra post today. Because I want to keep up posting a recipe every Saturday. And I want my trip reports from Michigan to be posted exactly a week after the event. Just count yourselves lucky.

At the top end of Younger’s confusing array of Pale Ales was IPA Pale. It’s one of the most confusing of the lot.

Why’s that? Because it has two names in the brewing records. On the left-hand page, it’s called No. 3 Pale. But on the right-hand page, it’s called IPA Pale. Very confusing, as No. 3 is a Scotch Ale and IPA is, well IPA.

Then a thought struck me. In the 1970s and 1980s, Younger had draught beers called No. 3 and IPA with very similar gravities. Was No. 3 then just IPA with added caramel? Knowing how much Scottish brewers liked colouring up beers at racking time, it wouldn’t surprise me.

Where was this beer sold and as what? I’m guessing that it was sold on draught as a Best Bitter down in London. The OG of 1055º is exactly what you would expect of an 8d Pale Ale. But that’s just a guess.

The grist is the same as Younger’s other Pale Ales: just pale malt and grits. At 35%, the grits element is at the top end of what Younger used.

The hops were a combination of Kent from the 1936 harvest and Oregon from 1937.

1938 William Younger IPA Pale
pale malt 8.25 lb 64.71%
grits 4.50 lb 35.29%
Cluster 105 min 0.25 oz
Fuggles 90 min 0.75 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.50 oz
OG 1055
FG 1012
ABV 5.69
Apparent attenuation 78.18%
IBU 22
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Talk, talk in Ypsilanti

Quite an early start today. Matt picks me up at 8:30. My first talk at Eastern Michigan University is at 10:30 and we need to set up before that.

“It was nice and clean until I went down that dirt road yesterday.” Matt remarks as we approach his truck. It is looking a bit scruffy, with dried dirt all along the bottom half.

“Ypsilanti is one of the most diverse cities in the US.” Matt explains as we enter the town. “This street is full of little ethnic restaurants, Mom and Pop places.”

There certainly seems to be a good range of Asian and European cuisines strung out along either side of the road.

We’ll be in a different building this year. Not a ballroom, but a proper lecture theatre. All newly renovated and rather snazzy. Cory Emal, coordinator of EMU’s Fermentation Sciences program, meets us inside. He’s also coordinating today’s events.

While they’re setting up the food for the interval between talks in the foyer, Cory sets up the technical aspects. Like getting the projector working and miking me up. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time as, thankfully, there aren’t any big problems.

Quite a few people I recognise from my time here in spring 2018, Including Jeff Renner, whom I’ve now met several times.

I kick off with my talk on German sour beer styles. Just a week ago I gave the same talk in Dublin. Well, almost the same talk. I made a few updates earlier this week. Adding a couple more slides about Berliner Weisse and including pH values to all the tables.

In the interval I eat some soup then am led up to the fermentation department proper. Where there are four beers brewed from historical recipes of mine: Matt’s 1857 Barclay Perkins X Ale, 1939 Wm. Younger DBS Btlg, 1956 Shepherd Neame MB and 1950 Adnams DS. The latter three being Student-brewed beers.

They’re all pretty good, but the 1939 Wm. Younger DBS Btlg is particularly nice. In an odd coincidence, I wrote a recipe for this beer a week or so ago.

“What about students who are under 21? Are they allowed to drink the beer that they’ve brewed?”

“Yes, but only in a class.” Cory replies.

“That’s weird.” US drinking laws are totally insane.

“Would you like a pint for while you’re giving your next talk?” Cory asks. I think you can guess what my reply was.

With a pint of 1857 Barclay Perkins X Ale in hand, I plunge into talk number two: Brettanomyces in British brewing. I also made some changes to this earlier in the week. In the section on Harvey’s Imperial Stout I had incorrectly assumed the presence of Brettanomyces. When, in fact, secondary conditioning is by means of Debaromyces, which lurks in Harvey’s pitching yeast.

Yacking done, it’s time to shift some books. Dolores will be pleased with the results. Fewer books clogging up the house, replaced by space-efficient cash.

After the talks, we head to Ypsi Alehouse. For a few beers. Where we find other brewers. Can you guess what they’re doing? Drinking overpriced bottled water and discussing the stock market. Of course not.

The Alehouse is in a fine old building, which was originally a hotel. According to Matt it has three levels of cellars.

What to drink first? It is October, so I start with a house-brewed Oktoberfest. It’s the amber colour I’d expect from a US version and satisfyingly malty. That’ll do nicely.

The chat spins around brewers past and present, the financial perils of the industry and, inevitably, sludge beers. I’m struggling to think of a single professional brewer I’ve spoken with any enthusiasm for that type of beer.

 My next beer is also a house one, Mooneye American IPA. What’s the point of being in a brewpub if you’re not going to drink its beer? It’s a straightforward IPA. The sort of beer which used to be everywhere. Now I feel almost nostalgic drinking this style.

When evening rolls around, Matt drives us to his brewery. We sit in the beer garden at first, but it's a little too chilly. Especially as I don’t have a coat. We head inside.

“Where would you like to eat?” Matt asks over a pint, “There are lots of options.”

He reels off various ethnic cuisines. Not feeling in the mood for a big pile, I opt for tapas. Picking at little bits of food every now and again disturbs my drinking less than filling my hole with a gut-busting quantity of meat and carbs. Have leave some room for ale.

We go back to his house to pick up his wife and daughter, who will be joining us. I wait in the truck as he ventures inside. He warned me that he has a very large and overfriendly dog.

“An hour, at least.” They say when we troll up at the tapas place. Sort of rules that out. Matt’s daughter doesn’t look that upset. I soon learn why: our plan B is Blue Nile, one of her favourite restaurants, which is just over the road.

I understand why. Once the food arrives. As you’d expect, in piles on those spongy pancake things. Mostly vegetarian, but with a few bits of chicken. Pretty damn tasty. And ticklingly spicy. Yum.

There’s lots of good beer around in Ann Arbor. Here they have draught Bell’s Oberon, a wheat beer with an orangey flavour. Something suitably wet, and not too extreme, to wash the nosh down.

After Matt has dropped me back off at my hotel I drop onto my bed. A bit knacked, if I’m honest. Two talks almost back to back was quite draining. It’s not too late, thankfully. Time to turn to TV. Of the least demanding type.

Speybourn is on hand to guide me to my dreams.

Ypsi Alehouse
124 Pearl St #100,
MI 48197.
Tel: +1 734-487-1555

Blue Nile Restaurant
221 E Washington St,
Ann Arbor,
MI 48104.
Tel: +1 734-998-4746

Friday, 18 October 2019

Barclay Perkins X Ale crawl

I’ve a slow and easy start to the day. Matt arranged to pick me up at 3 PM. I fill the time until then watching some crap TV, while sipping on my hotel whisky. And finishing off the leftover sushi from yesterday.

My room has a decent kitchen. The fridge is bigger than the one at home. Microwave and dishwasher, too. The coffee machine, I’m struggling with. Pretty sure I’m not using it the right way. But I manage to get something resembling coffee out of it. Which sums up much American coffee.

Matt whisks me off to Ann Arbor. A town I’ve visited a surprising number of times. We’re doing a Barclay Perkins X Ale crawl. Never thought I’d be able to say that. Around breweries in Ann Arbor. Through Matt, I supplied local brewers with four X Ale recipes of various vintages.

I like Ann Arbor. A typical old-school, small(-ish) American town. Some recent developments may have reduced its character, but it remains pretty cool. And there are several breweries within easy walking distance. Even for an old twat like me.

After parking up Matt’s truck, we head to Grizzly Peak, where the brewer, Duncan Williams, is waiting for us. It has quite a pub-like feel, with a long bar and lots of wood. So it’s no surprise that the X Ale here is handpulled.

It’s the 1880 version and is a fairly modest 6% ABV or so. As you’d expect of a Mild of the period, it’s pale in colour and fairly heavily hopped. My brewing software spat out just over 100 IBUs. In practice, it’s probably not as high as that. But it’s still way more Bitter than people expect of a Mild nowadays.

Patrick Meehan, head brewer of Blue Tractor also drops by to share in the fun. We’re gradually building up quite a little gang.

Our next stop, Arbor Brewing, is just a short walk away. Chris Davies, the head brewer, joins us for a pint and a chat.  This X Ale, from 1838, is the strongest of the bunch, weighing in at around 8% ABV. Served by gravity from a cask on the bar, it has a fine, deep copper colour. It’s pretty hoppy, too. It also came out to around 100 IBUs, according to my brewing software.

The pub has a more contemporary vibe than Grizzly Peak, though it does have a fine copper bar top. We don’t linger too long as we’ve another X Ale to try. At the last stop on this crawl, Blue Tractor.

It’s even more modern-looking than Arbor Brewing, with lots of stainless steel and exposed ducts. Isn’t that all a bit 1990s? Lots of photos of old tractors, mind. Which is quite retro.

This X Ale is from 1914. And served on handpump, the way god intended Mild to be served. Though the weakest of the set, at just about 5% ABV, it’s also the darkest, with a colour closer to what’s expected today of a Mild. It’s pretty tasty, as have been all the versions.

It’s now well after 6 PM and our crawl is coming to an end. Not that it’s going to be the end of drinking for the day. God forbid a nightmare like that. The home brew club Matt’s a member of – Ann Arbor Brewers Guild – is having a meeting tonight which we’ll be attending.

The location is Bob Scholl’s house, which is on the outskirts of Saline, a small town about 15 km due south of Ann Arbor. The house turns out to be out in woods, down a dirt road. It reminds me of the cabin I stayed in outside Ashville earlier this year.

The meeting is being held in the basement. One ample enough to house the 30 or so attendees without looking vaguely overstuffed.

“Let me take your coat.” Someone asks as I enter. Fine by me. Saves me carrying it around or leaving it on a chair and forgetting it.

There’s a buffet and, obviously, a whole load of home brewed beer. I get stuck into both immediately.

The basement also houses Bob’s collection of vintage jukeboxes, some going back as far as the 1940s. Very colourful, they are. It includes one that plays the records in a vertical position.

“They used to have a similar one in The Whip, a pub I drank in in Leeds.” I remark to Bob. “It was where all the old Teds hung out. Weird place. Someone once randomly threatened to kick the shit out of me while I was having a piss in the bogs.”

The evening whips past in chatter and beer. The club members are a friendly bunch and I’ve no shortage of conversation partners. Quite a few I already know.

Halfway through winding back to Brighton, I notice that I don’t have my coat. Bum. Too late to turn back now.

My old friend whisky is there to warm me back in my room. Before taking my hand and leading me off to slumber.

Grizzly Peak Brewing Co.
120 W Washington St,
Ann Arbor,
MI 48104.
Tel: +1 734-741-7325

Arbor Brewing Company Brewpub
114 E Washington St,
Ann Arbor,
MI 48104.
Tel: +1 734-213-1393

Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery
207 E Washington St,
Ann Arbor,
MI 48104.
Tel: +1 734-222-4095

Ann Arbor Brewers Guild

Thursday, 17 October 2019

How to get a new copy of the Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer

My "proper" book is sadly out of print and second-hand copies seem to be going for silly prices.

Luckily, I still have access to new copies. Meaning I can supply anyone who needs a copy. With the added bonus of it being signed, if that's what you'd like.

Who would be interested? I'm just trying to guage the level of demand.

15% off my Lulu print books

For the rest of tady (October 17th) you can get a 15% discount on all my print books by using this code:


It's a great chance to get my wonderful books for a low, low price. You can find the full set here of books:

Detroit here I come

The 397 bus still isn’t taking its usual route. Meaning I have to start my journey with a 62, rather than a 15, bus. The 62 isn’t as frequent so I check when one is due.

I only have to wait a couple of minutes before it turns up. Just 2 stops I’m taking it for. To Olympic Stadium where I’m changing. The 397 arrives just about immediately. This is going well.

It’s less than a week since I was last in Schiphol. My routine remains much the same as usual. I grab a sandwich from the Albert Heijn landside. Much cheaper than anything airside.

I breeze through bag drop-off, as I should with my pushing-in boarding.

Once through security and passport control, I head to the nearest duty-free shop. Where I pick up a bottle of Speybourn whisky, remembering to use the 5 euro voucher Dolores found for me. The discount means it’s under 30 euros. Not an Islay whisky, which is my preference, but good enough. And way cheaper.

Despite having to walk right past it, I don’t drop by the Irish pub. I’m trying to economise this time. Dolores has made her opinion very clear about my expenses when travelling. I promised her this would be a cheap trip.

Instead I sit dutifully at my gate reading Private Eye while I wait for boarding time to roll around. I’m such a good boy.

Sitting on the plane, I’m playing Slade songs in my head. Such an underrated band.

We’re about to leave the gate. The woman sitting next to me gets up and moves to sit next to her friend. Now I have two seats to myself. Win.

We’re all loaded up, but can’t leave the gate for another 25 minutes. Wonderful.

A 16-year-old girl over the aisle is doing her homework. I’m trying hard not to tell her to put the light on. “You’re going to ruin your eyes like that.” I’m starting to think and talk like my mum.

I pass the flight with a few light films. As usual. Time doesn’t drag too much.

Matt Becker, of Brewery Becker, is waiting for me at the airport. He’s the one who has invited me over. During the 40 minutes it takes him to drive us to Brighton, we chat away about various historical topics. Like me Matt is a big history geek. It gives us lots to talk about.

After dropping off my junk at my hotel, we head to his brewery. For a few beers, obviously. I kick off with the 1857 Barclay Perkins Mild he brewed to a recipe of mine. It’s lovely stuff, with a deep fruitiness. And deceptively drinkable considering itself. Dangerously drinkable, even.

Matt’s taproom is as beautiful as ever. I’m amazed at the amount of time and work he put into getting it to look like this. There’s a pub sort of vibe, as well. An intangible thing. The combination of the two is why it works so well.

“What would you like to eat?” Matt asks.

“I’m easy. What are the options?”

Matt lists off several types of ethnic foods which are available locally.

“Japanese. That’ll do.”

It’s not far. Just a few hundred metres along Main Street. Pretty sure we ate here last time I was over around 18 months ago.

I get a combination dish, which includes both sushi and gyoza. Yummy stuff, but I can't manage it all. I have the leftovers packaged up to take away. I can finish it off for breakfast tomorrow.

After eating, I’m starting to fade. Which is good. Means I’ll get a good kip and hopefully switch my body clock to this time zone.

A nightcap of whisky helps bring on the cavalry charge of sleep.

Brewery Becker
500 W Main St,
MI 48116.

Sushi Zen
114 W Grand River Ave,
MI 48116.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1954 Drybrough Burns Ale

In the 1950’s, Scottish brewers continued to make small amounts of pretty strong beer. Certainly stronger than most of the beer you’d find in England. That’s the weird thing about Scottish brewing. Often its beers were both weaker and stronger than in England.

It’s a recurring theme in Scottish Beer. It was exactly the same in the middle of the 19th century, when brewers were turning out incredibly high-gravity beers as well as pretty weak Table Beers. In London, the beers tended to occupy more the middle ground, say 1050-1080º.

Burns Ale was, of course, just a very strong version of Drybrough’s Pale Ale recipe. The only one they had.

It’s quite odd that Drybrough were still using flaked barley. It was forced on brewers by the government during WW II as a replacement for flaked barley. Most dropped it again as soon as supplies of maize were restored. Maybe Drybrough liked it. On the other hand, they did stop using it in the late 1950s.

1954 Drybrough Burns Ale
pale malt 12.75 lb 77.86%
black malt 0.125 lb 0.76%
flaked maize 1.00 lb 6.11%
flaked barley 1.00 lb 6.11%
No. 2 invert sugar 1.25 lb 7.63%
malt extract 0.25 lb 1.53%
Fuggles 90 min 1.50 oz
Goldings 30 min 1.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 1.00 oz
OG 1073
FG 1024
ABV 6.48
Apparent attenuation 67.12%
IBU 31
SRM 12
Mash at 147º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

The above is an extract from the best book ever written on Scottish brewing, my Scotland! vol. 2:

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Prominent Firms Ind, Coope & Co.

You can guess where we are again: advertorial country. Just outside London, to be precise, in Essex.

Once again, a brewery with a large trade in the new-fangled type of non-deposit bottled beer.

The bottled trade, which is the distinctire feature of the brewing industry to-day, has received close attention at the hands of this firm. Bottled ale must present a clear, sparkling apearance, for the public has come to regard “brilliance” as one of most desirable properties. In order produce this appearance brewers have had to instal special plants at considerable expense. Messrs. Ind, Coope, and & Co. possess a cold store room, constructed to hold 500 barrels of this type of beer, and they have four chilling machines constantly at work, dealing with this branch of their business. Among the varieties bottled are the Romford ale, stout, special A.K.K. ale, special stout, and cooper of the finest quality.

Ale for the Army and Navy.
The firm's brewery at Romford is situated on the old Roman road from London to Colchester. In 1799 Mr. Edward Ind purchased a brewery there, and no doubt it was the successor of many earlier beerhouses on the same spot. To go no further back than the reign of Charles I., an inn of some mark stood on what now is almost part of the brewery ground. It was the venue of the sittings of the Parliamentarian Committee appointed to ensure the safety of the eastern counties, and its existence presupposes a source of supply in the near neighbourhood for its cellars. The premises of the present concern cover 37 acres of ground, and the brewery has a capacity of 8000 barrels weekly. Nearly all the men are employed on the piecework system; probably there no other English brewery where this is done. Besides the Romford brewery, Messrs. Ind, Chops, and Co. have a brewery at Burton-on-Trent, whence enormous quantities of ale are despatched to his Majesty's naval and military forces in all parts of the world."
London Evening Standard - Tuesday 20 October 1908, page 9.
Ind Coope was clearly a  substantial brewery. With a capacity of around 400,000 barrels a year, they were very much in the first division on UK brewers. In 1905, just 9 breweries produced more than 500,000 barrels a year and only 40 between 100,000 and 500,000 barrels.* And that 400,000 is just for Romford. There was also their brewery in Burton.

I always Simonds and some Scottish breweries were the main suppoliers of the British military. Obviously a good market to have, sewrvicemen generally being a thirsty bunch.

Here's some more details about Ind Coope's beers, albeit from a slightly earlier date:

Ind Coope's beers in 1890
beer price per barrel price (per gallon) price (per doz) pint
AK Light Bitter 42 14
XXM Mild Ale 42 14
XK Bitter 50 16.67
XXK Strong Ale 64 21.33
P Porter 40 13.33
S Stout 50 16.67
AKK Pale Ale 2s 3d
XXX Strong Ale 4s
S Stout 3s
DS Double Stout 3s 6d
Eyre's Post Office Plymouth & District Directory, 1890

Interesting how much fuss they made of AKK. At 2.25d per pint bottle, it can't have been all that strong. It was probably just a bottled version of AK. My guess would be an OG of 1045-50º for both AK and AKK.

The prices look higher than those of London brewers. I'd expect AK, XXM And Porter to be around 36 shillings per barrel.

* 1928 Brewers' Almanack, page 118.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Scottish brewing 1840 to 1880

Scottish brewing was transformed in the second half of the 19th century. As brewers grasped the opportunities offered by Empire. Scottish brewers had an established trade with England, but after 1840 they turned their eyes further afield.

Shilling Ales, the Scottish equivalent of Mild Ales were still brewed in large quantities. Often to stupidly high gravities.

They were able to boost their output far above what the Scottish market could ever have supported. But not all brewers profited. Only those in the right location: readily available raw materials, good quality water, access to railways or the sea. The industry was increasingly concentrated in a small number of towns in the Central Belt, most notably Edinburgh and Alloa.

At the start of this period, Scotland still boasted an impressive number of breweries, over 500 in total. Though this looks tiny compared to those in England:

Brewers & beer retailers in 1838
England Scotland Ireland
No. No. No.
Brewers of strong beer not exceeding 20 barrels 8,996 62 29
Brewers of strong beer exceeding 20 but not exceeding 50 barrels 8,520 24 1
Brewers of strong beer exceeding 50 but not exceeding 100 barrels 10,445 28 11
Brewers of strong beer exceeding 100 but not exceeding 1000 barrels 18,306 211 55
Brewers of strong beer exceeding 1000 barrels 1,597 114 145
Brewers of table beer 14 90
Retail brewers under 5 Geo. IV. C. 54 18 20
Total brewers 47,896 549 241
"A Cyclopaedia of Commerce, Mercantile Law, Finance, Commercial Geography and Navigation", by William Waterston, 1863, page 79

Even the largest Edinburgh brewers, William Younger and William McEwan, couldn’t compare in scale to the giants of British brewing such as Barclay Perkins, Guinness or Bass. In the early 1840’s just 195,000 barrels were brewed in Edinburgh . 

To put that figure into context, total UK beer production was between 14 and 16.5 million barrels a year in the 1840’s.  While the four largest London breweries made more than 1 million barrels a year in the same period .

By 1880, publican brewers, never as widespread in Scotland as in England, almost totally disappeared. In 1888, there were just 36 remaining . Brewing was dominated by a few dozen brewers, mostly within spitting distance of each other. "The London and Suburban Licensed Victuallers' Directory" of 1874 lists 130 Scottish breweries . This is a breakdown by region:

Scottish breweries by region in 1874
north central west coast south
27 79 17 7

The industry was becoming very concentrated in the central lowlands and Edinburgh, with 26 breweries, was by far the biggest brewing centre . Tiny Alloa boasted six breweries, not that many fewer than the ten of far larger Glasgow. Aberdeenshire, with 14, was the only other region with a decent number of breweries.

The above is an extract from the best book ever written on Scottish brewing, my Scotland! vol. 2:

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Dublin Brewcon 2019

I was really glad to be invited over for the conference. For multiple reasons.

One was to have a holiday with Dolores. I’ve been gadding around the world like a gadding gadfly this year. Except not with Dolores. Lots of US trips on my own, Newark and Asia with the kids, but nothing with Dolores.

She’s one of my favoured travelling companions. Experienced, neither panicky nor moany, well organised. Good company, too. Not forgetting that she stops me going too crazy. After the Red Harvest moment in Hong Kong, I realise the importance of that, if I want to reach 70.

I’m in no rush to rise. Dolores wakes me with a cup of tea. Not thrown over me, you sick bastards. Placed on my bedside table. True sign of love, a cup of tea delivered as you wake. (Unless you have servants, obviously. I mean someone doing it voluntarily, not as part of their job.)

Munching on my breakfast sarnie – cheese and ham, if you’re interested – I fiddle a little on my flip-flop. There’s a message from John just after 10:

“Morning! Brian wanted to check that you're OK for getting to Rascals.”

I reassure him I’m just on my way. Once I’ve finished munching and looking at annoying shit on the internet.

Jumping in a Joe a little later, I notice that the address I have for Rascal’s HQ, where the conference is taking place, is rather vague. No street number, just Tyrconnell Road, Inchicore. The taxi driver hasn’t heard of Rascals.

“It’s a brewery.” I tell him. “Though it hasn’t been in the location long.”

As we’re on our way to Tyrconnell Road the buildings start looking familiar. I know where we are: St James’s Gate. Just over a year ago I was inside the gates. Inside the archive, even. But that’s a story I can’t tell yet.

“It’s close to the Luas station.” I tell my driver, remembering the map I printed but forgot to bring with me. “In an industrial estate.”

We wander off down a side road and along an Industrial estate. No sign of a Rascals sign. My driver decides to ask a young bloke stood outside his house.

“It’s back that way. You go down there to the right.” He says pointing steadfastly left. Luckily my driver gets the idea. It’s left then right. Sure enough, there’s a small sign saying “Rascals” that we drove past without noticing earlier.

I’m barely through the door when Brian comes up. He looks relieved. And gives me a can top that’s my passport to free beer at the bar. Which Is where I head as soon as I’ve dropped off my bag and coat.

I catch the last 20 minutes or so of the talk by Philip Woodnutt of the Wicklow Hop Company. Who, rather confusingly is discussing yeast, not hops. Quite interesting, the bits that I catch.

In the short interval before I’m on, I take the opportunity to grab myself another ping of Black IPA. I wouldn’t want my throat to get dry while I’m talking.

Brian has a timer app on a tablet. He sets it to an hour and it starts counting down. Timing shouldn’t be a problem I’ve given this talk a few times before. 45 minutes of me yapping then 15 minutes of questions. Should be a doddle.

As usual, I break off into unrelated tangents every now and again. But I allow for that in my timing. I do run a little over. It’s 46 minutes in when I pull up the final slide asking for questions.

Work done, it’s time for fun. Which means shovelling down beer and chatting, in this case. I bump into several people, like Oblivious, whom I only know from the internet. Nice to finally meet them.

I head upstairs for Christina Wade’s talk about brewing in medieval Ireland. It’s dead interesting and teaches me a lot. I hadn’t realised how widespread domestic brewing was. I’d only seen information about it in the 19th century when, unlike in England, it had pretty much died out.

I chat with a nice American gentleman as I guzzle down my pizza. It’s more international here than I had expected.

Once all the formal business is completed at 5 PM, I set out the books I’m hoping to flog and wait for some punters. I manage to shift half of them, which isn’t too bad. Just as well I get rid of some, otherwise there wouldn’t be room in my bag for all the roasting joints I intend taking back with me.

I look for Dolores’s burner phone which she brought over so I could give her a call to let her know when I’d be returning to the hotel. After a frantic search though my bag, I realise that I’ve either left in the hotel or lost it. I do hope it isn’t the latter. Dolores would be very cross.

A taxi has me back just after 7 PM.

“Where have you been, Ronald? If I’d had to wait any longer I’d have gone to Wetherspoons by myself. I’m getting thirsty.”

“I’m not that late.”

“You said you’d be back by six.”

“Try to be back by six, I think I said.”

“Right. Always some excuse. Let’s get going then.”

Dolores rushes me straight out. Must be pining for some cask Bitter.

The weather hasn’t been great today. Mostly raining. The only variation being the intensity.

“Who would have expected rain in Dublin?”

“Very funny, Ronald.”

As we walk Wetherspoons-ward, the rain gets heavier. Too heavy to be really comfortable.

“Shall we nip in here for a quick pint, Dolores?” I say outside the Vat House.


“You can get some Guinness. I know you always like to try some while you’re in Ireland.”

We nestle up at the bar. “Two halves of Guinness, please. And a double Powers, no ice.”

Dolores gives me a look. Which I’d sort of been expecting.

“How much did that cost?” Dolores asks, grabbing hold of the receipt. “14 euros! What a waste of money.”

“That’s why I had the bottle of whiskey in the hotel.”

Dolores continues to scowl all the way through our drinks.

“That’s weird measure for spirits.” I observe hoping to distract Dolores from my alcoholism. “On the optics: 35.5 ml. That must be a converted Imperial measure.”

Dolores has a calculator on her phone.

“I’m guessing a quarter gill. Divide 568 by 16.” I’d do it in my head, but I’ve been drinking since 11 AM.

“You’re right - 35.5.”

When we’re almost done, she has a quick look outside. The rain has subsided enough for it to be safe for us to venture further.

The Silver Penny is bustling when we arrive. Luckily some people are just leaving and we quickly grab their table. I don’t bother asking Dolores what she wants. I know already.  A pint of nice Bitter. I get a Jaipur for myself.

“How much was it?” Dolores asks when I return with the beers.

“Almost 7 euros. The robbing bastards.” That’s about the same price as a pint everywhere else.

Two girlies – who look about 14 – at the next table have two pitchers each of something weird looking. Which they’re drinking through a straw. They haven’t even finished their pitchers when a waitress brings over two bottles of Desperados that they must have ordered on the Wetherspoons app. She asks to see their id. Fair enough I suppose, given how young they look. Except the waitress herself only looks about 12.

Dolores fetches the next round. “The barman didn’t understand what I meant when I asked for Jaipur. But he did only look about sixteen. He asked another barman who showed him what it was. Though he only looked around 17.”

When I go for a slash I realise just how huge this place is. It takes me around 10 minutes to get there and back.

We don’t stay out too long. I want to be back in time for Match of the Day. Thankfully, it’s almost completely stopped raining when we leave. Almost.

As I watch the footie, I finish off my whiskey and work my way through the beers I bought yesterday. Dolores puts in earplugs and sleeps. I join her in slumber when the football, beer and whiskey are all done.

Rascals HQ
Goldenbridge Estate,
Tyrconnell Rd,
D08 HF68.

Vat House Bar
2 Anglesea St,
Temple Bar,
Dublin 2.

The Silver Penny - JD Wetherspoon
12a Abbey Street Lower,
North City,
Dublin 1,
D01 AY67.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Let's Brew - 1951 Boddington Stout

Time to return to that most exciting of decades, the 1950s. With a rather atypical Stout recipe from Manchester.

Here’s proof that not all English Stouts were sweet after WW II. With the level of hopping and rate of attenuation, there’s no way this would have come across as sweet.

The grist is quite interesting, too, with four different malts: pale amber, crystal and black. There’s a surprisingly large amount of amber malt, almost a third of the grist. So much, in fact, that I’m wondering whether it was diastatic or not.  Malt, as with XX, seems to have been added in the copper.

At least Boddington brewed their Stout properly. And didn’t parti-gyle it with Bitter, as some other breweries did.

It’s hopped at a rate of 6.5 lbs per quarter of malt, which is quite high. Higher than their Bitter. That’s reflected in the IBU count.

1951 Boddington Stout
pale malt 4.25 lb 44.00%
crystal malt 80 L 1.25 lb 12.94%
amber malt 3.00 lb 31.06%
black malt 0.50 lb 5.18%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.33 lb 3.42%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.33 lb 3.42%
Fuggles 95 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 45 mins 1.00 oz
OG 1040
FG 1012
ABV 3.70
Apparent attenuation 70.00%
IBU 27
SRM 38
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 162º F
Boil time 95 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast Wyeast 1318 London ale III (Boddingtons)

This is one of the many recipes in my book on brewing after WW II.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Prominent Firms - Courage & Co.

Time for another word from the Brewers' Society sponsors. At least that's how it reads. It's not exactly a critical review of Courage.

Though they had never been in the first division of Porter brewers in the 18th century, Courage had been a specialist in Black Beer production. They were unusual in the early part of the 20th century in only brewing Mild, Porter and Stout in their London headquarters. Even Truman, which owned a brewery in Burton, produced some Pale Ale in London.

When Courage wanted to get into Pale Ale brewing rather than look to Burton, they bought a brewery in the small town of Alton, Hampshire. Why? Because the  water there was similar in composition to that of Burton.

Another house which was once a “black beer” brewery, producing the dark coloured liquor for which London has a long standing reputation, but which now is as well known for its ales as for porter and stout, is that of Messrs. Courage and Co. Their London brewery, near the southern end of the Tower Bridge, occupies a situation to which several advantages are attached. It stands right on the banks of the Thames, and enjoys, in consequence, the fresh air which blows in from the river, as well as the convenience and economy of getting its supplies of malt, coal, etc., brought by water, the barges being able to come alongside Messrs. Courage's brewery, and to judge from an old print, in which this bouse and its gardens are shown as the resort of a large and fashionable company, the liquor of the locality must have enjoyed high repute.

Thorough Methods.
Be that as it may, the productions of the present brewery are admittedly of the finest quality. As illustrating the thorough study which Messrs. Courage make their business, it may be mentioned that a few years ago they took over a country brewery expressly to make pale ale, the water of the vicinity having been found specially suitable for the purpose. This Alton ale is considered equal to the famous Burton brews. Particular attention, too, is paid to the treatment of all the beer in stock; a set of instructions printed on enamelled tin is nailed up in each cellar for the guidance of the cellarmen in regard the temperature end other matters. By such means the proper condition of the various beers, the bulk of which reaches the public through the licensed houses, though a certain quantity is bottled, is ensured, a highly important point. Among the black been, the Imperial stout may be mentioned for its excellence. The sign "Courage and Co.” is, indeed, one of those which stand for wholesome, well-brewed liquor of whatever kind or grade.

An interesting feature the brewery is the well, which is sunk to a great depth, the water being blown up, so to speak, by tne use compressed air pumps. Some structural alterations have been recently carried out; the firm has its own architect, part of whose function is to carry out improvements in the buildings from time to time. But it is not surprising to learn that for the nonce a check has been put on enterprise of this kind. It has been urged that the Licensing Bill, if it becomes law, is bound create a serious amount of unemployment; here is an instance — and it is not solitary one — where it has already had that effect."
London Evening Standard - Tuesday 20 October 1908, page 9.
Interesting that Courage was still principally selling its beer in draught form, while rivals Barclay Perkins and Whitbread were already heavily involved in the bottled beer trade. I wonder why that was? It might have been on account of the type of beers they brewed in London. Other than Imperial Stout, they weren't really the types of beer that were common in bottled form.

Most of what was brewed at Horsleydown was either Mild, standard-strength Porter or Burton Ale. All three of which were mostly draught-only. The range was pretty small, consisting of just five beers:

Courage Horsleydown beers in 1914
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
X Mild 1054.6 1019.4 4.65 64.47% 4.96 1.05
XX Strong Ale 1079.2 1033.2 6.08 58.04% 9.90 3.07
Porter Porter 1051.2 1018.3 4.36 64.32% 7.20 1.51
Double Stout Stout 1078.9 1033.2 6.05 57.89% 7.20 2.33
Imperial Stout 1094.2 1038.8 7.33 58.82% 7.20 2.78
Courage brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/08/247.

The Porter and Stouts were parti-gyled with each other while X and XX were brewed single-gyle.